SZA’s, CTRL, is a Must Listen this Summer
SZA’s, CTRL, proves once again that the TDE empire cannot be stopped when it comes to producing artists who contribute original, refreshing, and overall phenomenal albums to the world of hip hop. The fourteen song tracklist has SZA’s twenty-something angst, joy, love, and transgressions infused in every lyric, story, beat, and vibe as she takes us on a nonstop trip.
Listening to the album from beginning to end, you feel yourself caught up in the lush sound of SZA’s voice, the poetic quirkiness of her lyrics (You are but a phoenix among feathers, You’re broken by the waves among the sea⸺Pretty Little Birds feat. Isaiah Rashad), and the reality, or nostalgia depending on your current stage in life, associated with the abject lovesickness, insecurities, and feelings of constantly having to reassure yourself as an adult that may not have it all together just yet.
If you had to compare SZA to one of her current contemporaries in hip hop, you could undoubtedly liken her to Frank Ocean. Like Ocean, no one else can sing SZA’s songs quite like she can. With her sound and lyrics, so personal and particular, you know she was the primary writing force.The lyrics are not necessarily catchy, the cadence unusual from time to time, the beats airy and atmospheric on many tracks, but her voice never fails to deepen and sink and rise and fill all the little nooks and crannies. Her voice and intonations a welcome blend of R&B, hip hop, and pop, without the unoriginal sounds of commercialization flooding all of those genres at this time.
The angst ridden stories heavy throughout the album stops you from being thrown into a full love scorned depression with the dreaminess of the composition. From Supermodel to Drew Barrymore to Broken Clocks, you feel this sensation of cruising through past breakups and as much as you want to rehash all of the pettiness imbued within those heartaches, there’s something saying to just walk away, it’s beyond you now.
As you take your retrospective ride through all of those past heartbreaks, you also revisit all of your insecurities and the many reassurances you had to whisper to yourself as they are manifested in songs like Doves in the Wind, Prom, and Normal Girl. You can relate as you think of ways you could have been better or how you were better and they just didn’t realize it in time.
The constant back and forth and up and down of feelings, anxieties, and pressures of being both an individual yet not wanting to be alone come to a head in the final track, 20 Something, as well as the album’s overall message of “control.” The advice and realizations of SZA’s mother, serving as a framing narrative throughout the album, brings the idea of control back into focus right when you feel it fading it into the background. The sharpness and uncompromising tone of her voice juxtaposes the sounds of SZA’s own richness and tenderness, almost like the sound of one’s conscience or the light of the north star, when you are straying too far away from the your own self worth, your own true north. This track embodies the feelings of being at an age and stage in life when you are trying to take the reins and be in control of situations and consequences and emotional dispositions that seem to always be slipping out of your hands.
On the whole, SZA’s, CTRL, is a great listen from beginning to end. The songs and vibe of the entire album so searingly seamless that it can damn near be listened to in any order while still retaining it’s overall meaning. Check out the album to see for yourself!